Spices, Seasonings and Herbs: What to Have on Hand

Taking an herb and spice inventory: What should we have in our kitchen?

One essential element in any feast are the flavors of herbs and spices we have come to love. They make our meals special. Now that the days are getting shorter and Daylight Savings Time is over, are you cooking hearty fall menus again? A home filled with the scent of a rustic bean soup in the crock pot is one way to reward yourself for a day’s hard work when you open the front door at night.

November is the perfect month to take a spices, seasonings and herb inventory and restore your stock for the holidays. Making a list of items that need to be replaced will prevent problems later this season. I admit that this is an expensive proposition. If you want to expand your flavor selection, try ethnic markets and other non-traditional sources for your seasonings.

When I take my inventory, I like to set everything that I use to season my meals out on the counter top and see what is low, empty (who put that back?!), or old. From this I make up a list of seasonings that I need to purchase before I am caught cooking a great meal, but missing my favorite flavors.

Here is a rough list that I work from. Like color, seasonings have shades of scent that affect specific types of foods when we cook. Because of this, I tend to group my seasonings by their function. Some seasoning I buy ground, others I like to keep whole until I use them. If you have a nutmeg grinder or dedicated old coffee grinder, you can buy seasonings whole, and then grind as needed for fuller flavor when you use them. The list that follows has my favorites, but if you think I missed something, let me know. We don't want to leave anything out!

This group works into pies, cookies and deserts. But it’s fun to add them in unexpected places. Why not try cinnamon in your next batch of brownies? Ginger is another spice that can warm up so many foods, and is a great addition to tea.
Vanilla Extract
Almond Extract

Warm tones like these spices add dimension to squash, soups and bean dishes. Try healthful turmeric, it really packs a punch and adds a gorgeous yellow to the dish.
Madras Curry Powder
Garlic Powder

While meats can vary from dark to light, and change in flavor, some seasonings are classics. Chili grows complex with cumin and various types of chili powder. Tandoori Masala is an Indian mixed seasoning that is fun with all meats. It’s a more complex mixed seasoning than most produced by US spice brands.
Chili Powder
Tandoori Masala: BarBQ Spice Mix

All purpose:
It’s possible to add most herbs and spices to any vegetable or meat, but some are the dependable standbys I must have on hand at all times.
Salt and Pepper: in grinders
Mrs. Dash blends and other unsalted herb blends

We would all love to have fresh herbs on hand. Perhaps you were able to dry some this summer. If not, you will want the freshest packaged dried herbs available for this season. This short list is probably the most popular herbs, and can help to elevate your crock pot soups to new flavor levels.

1 comment:

Organized Island said...

Great post! I am in the process of organizing my spices as I prepare for fall cooking! Thanks for sharing!